France Telecom to shut down the Minitel in 2012

France Telecom (NYSE: FTE) is going to pull the plug on Minitel, France's own early version of the Internet, next June.

Even though Minitel is a very slow text-only service, since it debuted in 1982 it has remained popular with banks and weather forecasters, generating $43.1 million in revenue in 2010.

A France Télécom spokeswoman said in a Wall Street Journal article on Friday that "The Minitel will die on June 30, 2012" because the architecture it's based on is obsolete.

The Minitel was the product of a late-1970s government-led initiative to get people to exchange information and conduct daily activities such as checking banking accounts to reduce their dependency on paper. At its peak in 2002, there were about nine million Minitel systems in France's homes. 

However, opinions about the Minitel were always divided.

Critics have long argued that Minitel, which became a €1 billion cash cow for France Telecom in the late 1990s, may have actually hampered the telco's move to roll out broadband services. Minitel supports argue the service gave all residents, including those living in rural areas, a way to quickly get information.  

For more:
- Wall Street Journal has this article

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